Clubs, Real Madrid, Spanish Primera División, Story

Real Madrid were denied a win at Levante by a late equaliser from Giampolo Pazzini, who came off the bench to score on his debut for the hosts.
Giampolo Pazzini came off the bench to score on his La Liga debut, earning Levante a share of the points at home against Real Madrid.
Giampolo Pazzini came off the bench to score on his La Liga debut, earning Levante a share of the points at home against Real Madrid.

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane admitted that this season was “being difficult” after his team slipped up again in Saturday evening’s dramatic 2-2 La Liga draw at Levante.

Madrid’s early dominance was rewarded on 11 minutes when Sergio Ramos headed Toni Kroos’ corner to the net. But Levante equalised just before half-time when Emmanuel Boateng scored his first ever La Liga goal, in what was the home side’s first real attack of the game.

Madrid attacked in waves through the second half, and Isco hammered them ahead again with 10 minutes left, from Karim Benzema’s assist. But then Italian veteran Giampaolo Pazzini took advantage of more slapdash defending to snaffle an equaliser which gave relegation threatened Levante a huge boost and was just the latest slip in Madrid’s horrorshow 2017-18.

With last year’s champions stuck in fourth in La Liga, 18 points behind runaway leaders Barcelona, the Los Blancos coach told the media afterwards that he was unhappy as his team had yet again been unable to build on last weekend’s impressive 4-1 win at Valencia.

“This year is being difficult for us,” Zidane said. “We cannot put three or four results together. We were in control of the game, above all the first half, so I am not happy, of course.

“The pity is that after we scored our second goal, we were not able to keep hold of the ball, and defensively we were not good. We got to 2-1, then we must be clever, avoid the second goal, and we did not.

“We were not focused, and that is hard to take as it is two points lost. It is a bit difficult to take, after the positives last week when we improved at Valencia.”

Struggling Levante had scored just one goal in open play in their previous nine outings, but seemed to find it very easy to counter against Madrid’s wide open defence.

“This is football, and the opponent can make things difficult for you,” Zidane said. “But we could avoid their second goal. That annoys me, as we have worked on that, knew they could counter-attack. They had four chances and scored two goals.”

After another frustrating game Cristiano Ronaldo was subbed off with 10 minutes left, which does not often happen. “I changed [Ronaldo] as I wanted another player a bit more in the middle of the pitch,” Zidane explained.

Asked if he thought his job was on the line in the looming Champions League last-16 clash with Paris Saint-Germain, the former galactico answered shortly: “I just think about the next game, nothing else.”

Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan

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